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Kikuchi-Fujimoto disease (KFD) is a reactive lymphadenitis of unclear etiology. To understand the pathogenesis of KFD, we performed targeted RNA sequencing of a well-characterized cohort of 15 KFD specimens with 9 non-KFD lymphadenitis controls. Two thousand and three autoimmunity-related genes were evaluated from archived formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded lymph node tissue and analyzed by a bioinformatics approach. Differential expression analysis of KFD cases compared to controls revealed 44 significantly upregulated genes in KFD. Sixty-eight percent of these genes were associated with the type I interferon (IFN) response pathway. Key component of the pathway including nucleic acid sensors, IFN regulatory factors, IFN-induced antiviral proteins, IFN transcription factors, IFN-stimulated genes, and IFN-induced cytokines were significantly upregulated. Unbiased gene expression pathway analysis revealed enrichment of IFN signaling and antiviral pathways in KFD. Protein-protein interaction analysis and a molecular complex detection algorithm identified a densely interacting 15-gene module of type I IFN pathway genes. Apoptosis regulator IFI6 was identified as a key seed gene. Transcription factor target analysis identified enrichment of IFN-response elements and IFN-response factors. T-cell-associated genes were upregulated while myeloid and B-cell-associated genes were downregulated in KFD. CD123+ plasmacytoid dendritic cells (PDCs) and activated T cells were noted in KFD. In conclusion, KFD is mediated by an aberrant type I interferon response that is likely driven by PDCs and T cells. © 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to United States & Canadian Academy of Pathology.


Elizabeth Y Li, Jason Xu, Nya D Nelson, David T Teachey, Kai Tan, Neil Romberg, Ed Behrens, Vinodh Pillai. Kikuchi-Fujimoto disease is mediated by an aberrant type I interferon response. Modern pathology : an official journal of the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology, Inc. 2022 Apr;35(4):462-469

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PMID: 34952944

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